04/12/12 1:11 PM ET
Buster's return could echo McCovey's
By Chris Haft / MLB.com
McCovey himself echoed Romo's sentiments.
"He comes across as being genuine, very humble," McCovey said of Posey. "And even at his young age (25), he comes across as being a leader. I think the players look up to him. Even the players that were here before him seem to look up to him. That means a lot."Of course, McCovey remains universally admired. Everlasting tributes to "Stretch," who retired in 1980 with 521 home runs, include the Willie Mac Award, given annually in a vote by teammates to the Giants player who best embodies McCovey's competitive spirit; the portion of San Francisco Bay beyond AT&T Park's right-field wall known as McCovey Cove; and the statue of McCovey beyond the cove, capturing the follow-through of his powerful swing. "I don't think anybody would challenge, historically, Willie McCovey's popularity and the way people feel about him," said Pat Gallagher, the Giants' former marketing guru who began his tenure with the club in 1977. "He really does stand alone in that. People love him. He's a man of few words, but when he says something, people listen. His coming back in 1977 brought some hope and dignity back to the team, which frankly we really needed." Posey has been likened to a budding Derek Jeter, the New York Yankees shortstop widely considered the ultimate professional among current players. Some have compared Posey to Will Clark, the former Giants first baseman whose intensity was unrivaled. But maybe Posey, who has dealt uncomplainingly with his leg issues, more closely resembles the stoic McCovey, who ignored Candlestick Park's chilly conditions and his own knee problems while appearing in more games (2,256) than any other San Francisco Giant. "Buster Posey represents everything you want to have in a star," Gallagher said. "There are a lot of elements in his personality that are comparable to the way Willie McCovey carried himself. He just wanted to go out and do it. He appreciated the fanfare but certainly didn't seek it." McCovey displayed this trait before the home opener against the Los Angeles Dodgers on April 15, 1977, when he jogged from the dugout to the first-base line as the Giants were introduced individually. The Candlestick crowd of 37,813 delivered an ovation which both the San Francisco Examiner and San Jose Mercury News described as "thunderous." The latter newspaper added that the applause for McCovey "lasted several minutes." McCovey recalled this week that he felt "excited" and "nervous" before that game. But the fan reaction comforted him.
"You appreciate how much the fans missed you and loved you," he said.Chris Speier started at shortstop for the Giants that afternoon and scored their only run in a 7-1 loss. McCovey's return was San Francisco's biggest highlight.
"I would have been surprised if it had not been that generous [of a reception] by the people," said Speier, now Cincinnati's bench coach. "From a pure baseball side, Giants side, organizational side, nobody deserved the accolades more than McCovey."Now it's Posey's turn. Having endured the unscheduled interruption in his career, he'll allow himself to bask in the game's pleasures -- such as the fans' adulation -- however briefly. "To me, it's still about winning. It's about winning as many games as you can," Posey said. "But I guess from a personal standpoint, I might try to soak up those moments a little bit more, just seeing how quickly it can be over."
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.